The torah portion for this Shabbat is Bechukotai (Lev. 26.3-27.34):
God promises that if Israel will keep the commandments, they will enjoy material prosperity and dwell secure in their homeland. But God also delivers a harsh warning of the exile, persecution and other evils that will befall them if they abandon their covenant with the Eternal. Nevertheless,
Yet, even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away; nor will I ever abhor them, to destroy them and to break My covenant with them; for I am the Eternal their God. (Lev 26.44)
This torah portion opens many questions for us, especially how we could understand the biblical idea of punishment and blessings, and how we should understand it today. What we can learn from the description is a better understanding of a messianic time: A time full of blessings – a world in balance. A world where we get enough for what we worked for. A world without shortage of food, and a world where God is in our midst and men walk free and erected. I can find comfort in these lines, because the vision of a messianic age doesn’t appear unreachable to me. This messianic world is not restricted to some gods or supermen residing on the top of a mountain or on the other side of the sea. It is in our hands to start the process, and to fulfill the visions of the torah and the prophets.
On Sunday we will mark the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer which commenced on the second night of Pesach and will conclude on the 49th day with the festival of Shavuot. The 33rd day is Lag B’omer; the day that tradition holds as a marker in this counting cycle due to the purported lifting of a plague amongst the disciples of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century.
Rabbi Michael Shire wrote the following explanation I’d like to share with you:
So the 33rd day is a stop in the on-going counting much like the momentary pause of an old clock as it reaches 12 and prepares to go round again. On our journey from Pesach to Shavuot, from Egypt to Sinai, from slavery to freedom we symbolically walk away from the things that oppress us and towards release of harmful habits, destructive behaviours, self-defeat or our own oppressions. … Peter Senge, the management guru, in his book ‘Presence’ indicates that in order to “let go”, we have to look back and pause on what we have learned from our past experiences. By pausing, we come into a state of ‘presence’ and in that state, we allow something else to “let come”. New insights, new hopes, new ambitions and a new way of looking at the reality around us can be part of this process. …
Counting of the Omer may seem one of those strange anachronistic Jewish folkways but it may just be another way to understand ourselves and our journeys through life arriving at Shavuot in order to let Torah come to us in a new and inspired way.